• Genesis 18:1-10a • Colossians 1:24-28 • Luke 10:38-42 • 16 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 07.21.2013
Nearly thirty years ago some folks began dreaming of an International Choral Festival here in Missoula. The 2013 version concluded last night with an astounding concert of the massed choirs in the Adams field house. The memories of this festival have joined those of previous festivals. Those memories will remain in our hearts long after the echoes of choral music in Missoula’s parks and public buildings have faded. The spirited singing of choirs from seventeen countries spanned boarders and bridged continents because of the generosity, hospitality, and dedication” of hundreds of local folks. It is called “hospitality.”
The hospitality story in our gospel today is unique to the Gospel of Luke. It occurred as Jesus and his companions are on a journey, heading to Jerusalem. Along the way he stops in the home of Martha and Mary — two sisters who apparently are among his good friends.
There is no universal agreement among scripture scholars about the core message of this text. In my preparation I kept seeking to discover the “good news” Luke is conveying to us. I did find a wee bit! In his interchange with the two sisters the story provides a brief glimpse of this gentle man who consistently calls us to be fully human and fully alive.
Martha was doing what all women in ancient Palestine would do. She waits on their guest and provides him appropriate hospitality. In the process she is working hard and is upset, even angry with her sister for not helping her in the kitchen. Based on the standards of that culture she was justified in being angry. She trusts Jesus enough to blurt out something of the turmoil that was bubbling within her.
She pleads with him to affirm her concern and direct her sister to help her. He surprises everyone. Instead of affirming Martha’s concern, he seems to ignore the conventional gender roles of the time. In this incident Luke shows us how fully human he is — personal and kind; a real friend. He understands her turmoil and does not condemn her. He listens attentively. Then he extends a gentle invitation to her.
In addition Luke provides a simple example of the good news that is the core of his teaching. Jesus says to her with great affection, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.” He recognizes that being “anxious and worried” diminishes her human spirit. Because of her anxiety and worry she is unable to love her sister as fully as she could.
Then he says to her, “there is need of only one thing.” He knows what hospitality requires but also knows that hospitality is about more than providing lodging and meals to visitors. It is about connecting with people in ways that make us more fully human. So Jesus calls Martha to something deeper and more significant than lodging and meals.
He calls all of us to be free of any and all things that prevent us from being fully human and fully alive. “There is need of only one thing” — the only thing God expects of us is that we become what we are capable of being – fully human and fully alive!
Throughout this incident we are told only that the younger sister Mary “sat beside the Lord at his feet and listening to him speak.” Luke’s brief description of her posture and behavior indicate Mary lived out of a deep inner peace that enabled her to be concerned about “the one thing” that is truly important.
So that is the good news I hear in this story. Don’t allow yourself to be anxious and worried about anything. Ultimately worry/anxiety make no difference! “There is need of only one thing.” That one thing is to be free to love, to connect with people in ways that make us more fully human. The International Choral Festival is a great reminder that being fully human and fully alive is all God asks of us!